Most of us are lucky enough to live in countries where there are no minefields, but buried out there in the sand and dirt of plenty of other countries are over 100 million landmines. They are often the legacy of old conflicts, now destined only to injure or kill civilians, often children. They remain in place because they are simply too dangerous and costly to clear.
A landmine costs as little as $3 to buy, but it can cost between $300 and $1,000 to clear each one. Experts have to be brought in, it requires specialist equipment such as metal detectors or radio-controlled bulldozers. It’s extremely slow and painstaking work, and it has to be. A partially cleared minefield is more dangerous than a full one, as people may re-occupy the land where previously they’d have stayed well clear.
There have been plenty of ideas for faster or cheaper demining, including training bees or rats to sniff them out, but there haven’t been any affordability breakthroughs just yet. What’s missing is an ‘appropriate technology’ for mine clearance, something that empowers people to reclaim their lands from the threat, rather than waiting for international relief efforts to finally reach their area.
Massoud Hassani may have such an idea. He grew up in Afghanistan and is now an engineer, and his latest project is a prototype wind-powered mine clearance device. It can be assembled predominantly from cheap local materials, and rolls along like a tumbleweed. It has multiple feet made from biodegradable plastic, which detonate the mines as it goes. It’s not a one-stop solution, but it would be a cheaper alternative to machines such as mine flails.
The concept is at the prototype stage. Hassani is currently fundraising on Kickstarter, which means that if you would like to be a part of bringing this technology into production, you can. You can also support the project by voting for the film above in the Focus Forward film competition.